Service and the Servant of the Lord

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Model, Representative Servant

Isaiah chapter 42, verse 1: "Behold My servant, whom I uphold; My chosen, in whom My soul delights".

I want to link with that some of the most familiar words from the lips of that Servant, recorded by Matthew in his gospel, chapter 11, verse 28: "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." "Behold My servant" and as we proceed a little further with this matter of servanthood and service, we are going to take a look at this Model, Pattern, representative Servant, and learn (I trust) something of servanthood and service from Him.

The words which we have read from the gospel have been mainly used for preaching to the unsaved. I don't think I have ever heard a message on those words otherwise than to the unsaved. They are almost universally and exclusively used as a "Gospel appeal", as it is called. And I am not questioning the right of that, but I want to point out that those words were addressed to the people who called themselves, "The people of God". They were addressed to Israel; they were spoken to the Jews. And their subject is not salvation; their subject is service, it is to labourers: burdened, weighed down in their toil, their labour, that the appeal was made. And the very symbols used are the symbols of service: "My yoke" - the yoke was the symbol of service, of work. And the real message there is this: these people were striving to work, they were toiling, labouring (as they intended) for God. It was in relation to God that they were thus burdened.

We know what the burden was, it was the burden of the Law. To the leaders of that nation Jesus said, "You bind heavy burdens, and lay them upon men's shoulders; they are grievous to be borne". And under that overwhelming weight of legal service, they were bowed down, and found no rest. And Jesus, in this appeal, was only saying in other words: "I can teach you how to work to satisfaction, to joy, because all this that you are in, and you are doing, and you are striving after, doesn't get you anywhere. I can teach you how to work, and get somewhere. This is achieving nothing." And there is nothing more heart-breaking than to labour and toil, and never accomplish anything, never get anywhere, see nothing for it, and there be nothing for it. There is nothing more gratifying, heart-ravishing, than to do work, really be in work, and see that it's worthwhile, it's getting somewhere. The toil, the labour that gets there - that's rest, isn't it? Real rest is not sitting down doing nothing; real rest is seeing that all that you do is worthwhile. It's reaching an end.

And that is exactly what Jesus was saying to these people: "Come to Me, learn of Me; and I will teach you the way of service that is worthwhile, and that gets somewhere. Learn of Me."

All Service, True Service for God, Takes its Nature from Christ

Now, what I am saying to you at this time, may sound simple, but it is drastically testing and discriminating. Let me say at once: there is a vast amount of what is called, "The Work of the Lord" or service for the Lord, which is not getting there and which is not going through to God's end and achieving His purpose, and will be exposed at the end as having missed the way. A vast amount. A great deal is on a purely and merely personality basis. Well, much could be said like that, and there's a great deal going up in smoke, so don't be deceived, and don't make any mistake: I am not this evening talking about "working for the Lord" in what is commonly and generally called "The Lord's work", "The Lord's service". I am occupied and concerned with what is true service to God, the real nature of what is service to God. Does that need more careful defining?

You can have a little child, who wants to help Mother - and oh, how busy, what a little busy body she may be! What a lot of things she's doing - always such good intentions, and seems to be so happy about it all - helping Mother. But... poor Mother, poor Mother! Really she is making more work than she is doing; making more difficulty than she is clearing up. Presently, when she's gone to bed, Mother will have to put all that work straight and clear up all that well-intentioned labour. That's simple enough isn't it? Yes, it's meant to be service, but it isn't. Mother's verdict is: "Well, it's meant for me, but it's not really service to me". And there's a difference. And the Lord may take that attitude: "It's all, all that is meant for Me, I recognise how well-intentioned it is and the good motive. But, my word, it is really not service to Me! It is not reaching the end that I have at heart!" We have got to make that discrimination. But these people were doing countless things, as they thought, for God. You have only got to look into their rules and regulations, and all that they were doing in their rites and ceremonies and what-not - for God. And it was all abortive; it was getting nowhere. It became a tremendous burden and toil; yes, for God, but to such Jesus said: "Learn of Me, Learn of Me and I will teach you the way of service that is service to God indeed."

And if we are going to learn, we have to look at Him; not only listen to what He says, but look at Him. For I repeat, all true service to God takes its nature from Christ, and is all a matter of the knowledge and the understanding of the Lord Jesus. Yes, the knowledge and the understanding of Christ is the essential basis of service. Have you got the force of that?

Upon what is the service of Christ built, in Christianity? What do people mean when they say they are going into "the Lord's work"? "Well, to go into the Lord's work, into the Lord's service (put it how you will) we must go to some institution, some college, some place where we shall take lectures, and study, and read up, and then we will be qualified to go into the Lord's work". Is that true? Now, without for one moment undervaluing such teaching, instruction, and training - it has its place - I want to say this emphatically: that you may have all that you can get in that way, and still lack the essential for serving the Lord. All that is no guarantee that you have got the essential to serve the Lord.

"Take My Yoke... and Learn of Me."

Christ is a spiritual university! Pardon me if I treat you as little children, reminding you of the very word itself: "uni-versity". We are in a universe. People go to a uni-versity - what is that? Well, "versum" is just a line, isn't it? A line. And the verse is so many lines. A university is a place where there are so many, or all, the lines. All the lines; every subject that you want to know about. There is this line: you'll read history, you'll read law, you'll read this, and that. That's the line, and all the lines meet in that particular place, just as in the universe, all the lines of science are there. It's a unity of all the lines. Now, when you go, or we go to the University, we don't go on to all the lines; we go on to one. We read Art, or Law, or History. That's the line in all the lines of the University. But, mark you, when you come to the Lord Jesus, you come to a Universe: a comprehensive, all-inclusive Centre, where you have to learn a very great many things; a vast amount there in Christ, and you are going on for all eternity, learning Christ. Christ is so comprehensive, so many-sided, so universal, so inclusive. There is no exhausting Him.

Those who have been on the way with Him, and in His school the longest, the greatest number of years, and even the most concentrated and devoted, and earnest in their application to know Him, at the end, at the end of long years, they know they have hardly started, they haven't started; haven't started. They're only at the beginning, on the fringe, of the knowledge of Christ.

When we begin to learn of Christ, we have come into, indeed, a University, and we have got to read in every subject! Now, does that appall you, disconcert you? Well, it need not, it need not - you have got all eternity, the ages of the ages for it! And the blessed thing about this is that He takes us a bit at a time; He doesn't cram us. There is no cramming in Christ (some of you know what cramming means don't you!) no cramming here, no forcing. He takes us a bit at a time, and sees to it that we just know that. It may be a small thing comparatively, but it's important; there is nothing unimportant here. He takes us in hand, and holds us until we know that. And it is not an end in itself that we should know it. This is education for vocation, make no mistake about it. The whole of this life here, shorter or longer, is a part of our education for eternal vocation. Probably that is the chief feature about our life here, for one thing becomes very clear before you have got very far, the Lord is far, far more concerned about your spiritual education than He is about how much, or how many things you do for Him. He is quite prepared to take you out of all the "doing" to see to it that you are learning. And the Lord makes the "doing", so often, our education. The "doing" is not the end; the education is, for the vocation lies ahead; it is "unto the ages of the ages". "Learn of Me"... how great Christ is, you and I will discover more and more as we go along.

At the early stages of our Christian life, we think that we know enough to go out, but as we go on, the fact is that we feel that we'd better get back and learn something, and not go quite so fast. We don't know what we need to know; it is better to draw back.

Well now, what I am saying, if you realise it, is this: that this learning servanthood and service, is not an academic thing, nor is it a verbal thing; it is by reason of a vital, spiritual union with Christ. It is learning a Person. If you can grasp that, and hold it, and hold it always, do. It is not learning things; it is not learning doctrines and truths; it is not even learning Scripture: these things have their place, but real service to God is going to come out of "learning Christ"; learning Christ - and that requires living with Him.

Well, that He is the great Servant needs no arguing; it was Self-declared: "I am among you", said He, "as He that serveth." He spoke of those who take their seats at the table, but He said, "I am not one of those; I am the servant to wait on you; I am here as the servant". Paul, in that classic phrase, says about His condescension from heaven: "He took upon Him the form of a bond-slave...". "A servant", the Authorised Version calls it. Well, it was self-declared that that is the capacity in which He was in this world with the garments of glory laid aside, and the towel of service girded, the water of purification in the basin and in hand, down on His knees to potential servants, to teach them how to serve, or the spirit of service. So He was here.

Well, we have this afternoon reminded ourselves of all those passages in Isaiah's prophecy, which predict His servanthood. We need not go over again how many there are of those pre-visionings in those prophecies of Him, as the servant of the Lord.

What we want to do, and must do, is to look at Him to see the characteristics of the true servant in whom God's heart is delighted. And I want to say first of all about Him, and therefore about all who will be or would be true servants of God in the true servanthood, that He was first of all marked by a Divine compulsion.

A Divine Compulsion

Let it be understood at once and do take this to heart: there is nothing voluntary about this. There is nothing voluntary about this. If you do come in, and it seems that you are doing it by offer, even that must be the result of a compulsion. He is here described as "a bond-slave" - that's the original term for our English word "servant": a bond-slave, not a volunteer. A bond-slave is not a volunteer at all; there is nothing about this that is optional. There is nothing about it that is casual. A bond-slave is purchased, is owned, possessed, and without any rights of his own. That's a bond-slave. A bond-slave has his very life bound up with his position as a bond-slave. He hasn't got a life of his own. Let one of those bond-slaves of old escape and run away and anybody can kill him. He can be killed; his life can be taken, and there it is; there's no fuss made about it. It is a recognised thing: as a bond-slave his life, his own life is forfeit one way or the other, it's either for his master, or it will be taken from him - or can be. This is a tremendous thing, this bond-slave idea.

Yes, the bond-slave was branded. Branded! And the brand was not the brand of his own rights to himself, it was the brand of his master, or of that authority to which he was given. Paul said: "I bear branded in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Paul would, in his constant usage of this very term concerning himself, "the bond-slave of Jesus Christ", would repudiate any suggestion that he had a life of his own, that he had any rights of his own, "For me to live is Christ". It's a matter of life or death, this service. It is rather different isn't it, from the common ideas of servanthood, or Christian service - you can resign, if you don't like it; you can change from one place to another if you are not pleased; you can run away - you can do anything today without any compunction. If you're a true servant of Jesus Christ, if you learn of Him, you will find this to be true. All these things were true of the Lord Jesus.

Need I say that it was not the compulsion of Law; it was not the compulsion of the Labour Tribunal directed to this or that; it was the compulsion of heart, the compulsion of love, it was the captivity of the will - His will was in the slavery of the Father! How He emphasised that: "I came not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me." "My meat and My drink... My very subsistence, is to do the will of My Father." From beginning to end, it was the complete captivation of His will by the will of Another; the compulsion of another will! Only such servanthood really reaches God's end, and serves God's purpose. It really is this, dear friends, or has got to be this: A deep-down urge of a sense of destiny! "Ye did not choose Me; but I chose you... and sent you or, ordained you that you should go and bear fruit." Something has happened that did not take its rise in us; we did not decide out from ourselves, to "go into the Lord's work", into "Christian service". A deep-down urge! Do you know what that means?

I remember many years ago, when I used to read fiction, interesting books, I was very interested in some books by a writer, whom perhaps this generation does not know, called Jack London. And one of his books was "The Call of the Wild", and it was about a wolf-dog, which had become domesticated, and attached to a home, and a family, but in the blood of this dog, there was always the wild! The wild! And while he was lying there on the hearth asleep, he was groaning and straining. His whole being was under tension; and his teeth and his lips were moving. Jack London called it "the call of the wild", that although here in these pleasant surroundings and circumstances, that "wild" to which he belonged by nature, was ever pulling, ever calling; he could never, never be wholly here, because he belonged there! Is that a good illustration?

Perhaps if you were brought up in a certain place, it was not too bad - a certain country - there are times when the call of your own, perhaps, native land, those early associations rise, and you feel you must go. It just comes, without your thinking about it, and without your planning anything; it just comes up in you, and you have to go. Do you know what I mean? This is what I mean by a sense of destiny, a sense of a deep-down urge - something has happened in us. We don't belong to ourselves; we don't belong here, we cannot just plan our own lives, there is something that has laid hold of us deep down in our being, and that thing will not let us rest. That was the law of the servanthood of Jesus Christ. It comes out in different ways again and again. Heaven was in His veins, shall I say. The Father's will was in His constitution; something was at work in Him like a mighty urge, until He could not rest, "I must... I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day. The night cometh when no man can work." "I must... I must!" The imperative of God in Him. That is the first principle of His servanthood - "learn of Me".

Oh, that the Lord would deliver us from this casual like or dislike, choosing, preferring, willing or not willing, and put us under the mighty drive of the Holy Spirit, that there is something in us all, that we cannot just be passengers; we cannot just be luggage; we are in the tremendous business of heaven. That is the Servant of the Lord as represented by Christ; He was like that!

I believe that this is the meaning of the Holy Spirit being in us. I believe that the Holy Spirit is like that, that if you or I come under the mastery of the Holy Spirit, we have lost all right to ourselves; we have lost all self-direction, and all our own prerogatives - we will not rest, we may say we are going to give it up, we may try, I would not like to tell you how many times I have tried, and said: "No more, no more!" But here I am and not, not just because I changed my mind. Forgive me putting it in that personal way, but this is what we have got to learn from Christ. The Holy Spirit in Him was an energy like this and that is what it means, among other things, to have the Spirit. Oh, do ask the Lord to rob you of yourself, to rob you of your own will in this sense and take you out under this tremendous impulse: the compulsion of God. That is the first thing about this Servant, and we could spend much more time on that. But think about it. Go back to the story of His life with that thought, and you cannot explain His life on any other ground. One phrase He lifted from the Old Testament, or was lifted from the Old Testament, as descriptive of Him which was the only way those who watched Him could describe and define Him was, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten Me up." Are you "eaten up"? Oh, God forgive us that we lack this Spirit. God's end will only be reached as we take our servanthood from Him in that respect.

One other thing I will mention now as so clear in Him, so true of Him, it is what we mean when we use the word which many people misunderstand and misinterpret, the word:


I am not thinking about objective visions. I am not thinking about "seeing things" as people say. Not that. When you come to the Lord Jesus, yes, to the prophets, you find that their service was the expression of a vision. The Lord Jesus Himself put it this way: "The Son can do nothing out from Himself, but whatsoever He sees the Father doing... these the Son also doeth". "The works that I do, the words that I speak... they are not Mine"; "Whatsoever He sees the Father doing...". Now, we do not think or believe for a moment that He was "seeing things". But there was this great reality about His spirit, that it was governed by that true faculty of the spirit - intuition.

We have sought to point out that angels do not obey God by verbal instructions. Spirits don't do that; spirits do not do things because they are told in so many words and sounds to do them. Spiritual people, or spiritual beings do, intuitively. You know the difference; there is a great deal of difference. Some people have to be told everything that they are to do and have everything pointed out before they do anything. There are others that have such a sensitive relationship to the person to whom they are committed, whom they are serving, that they know what that person wants done, or how that person would do it intuitively - they do not have to be told. And that is how all spiritual beings do the will of God. And because Jesus had a spirit so atune to God, He intuitively knew when, or when not to do something; when, or when not to say anything; when the time was for speaking, and when the time was for being silent - and some of His silences were thunderclaps! Is that a contradiction? They are terrific. Those poor rulers in the Judgment Hall felt the terrific impact of His silence - the silence that is terrific, if it is the silence of God. You see what I mean; that is the meaning of His "vision" - a sensitiveness. Here, then, you go back to Isaiah, to this Servant, and in the description of Him, you have this: "He shall be quick of scent in the fear of the Lord". Quick of scent in the fear of the Lord, and I understand that "the fear of the Lord" to mean so abandoned to the Lord as to have no place for His own will and His own interests. "Quick of scent in the fear of the Lord". "He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, nor after the hearing of His ears." No, deeper down: righteous judgment. Not by appearances and sounds, but something in the spirit. This is the servant; this is vision.

Now, you may say, "That is all very well for Him, being what He was, but what about us?" But I want to say that that law holds and obtains, holds good, as the law of all service and servanthood. You and I must have, though imperfect, and capable of much enlargement, a basic revelation of Jesus Christ if we are going to be of any real service to God - a basic seeing of Him. Christ is the object of service, not only the way of service. Christ is the very nature of service; it is Himself. Christ is the end of service. Service is Christ! And we can never effectively serve, only insofar as we have seen Him, and are seeing Him. It is only another way of saying, "learning Him". Now, the apostle Paul put the whole of his life and work upon that basis. He said: "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me, that I might proclaim Him among the nations" - there is your basis: "Reveal His Son in me".

Oh, I know how difficult this is for you to grasp and wrestle with mentally. Perhaps you do know what I am talking about. I know this - I know it as well as I know anything, if I know anything at all - that, only as I see Christ as God's Pattern and Model in everything, can I do anything. That is the guide; that is the inspiration of everything, that is the necessity in our work; it is not just getting an idea of doing things, and starting out to do them: it is in this manner, by the Holy Spirit seeing that that is the way that Christ is taking you. Oh, I wish I could explain, but you can know in your spirit that Christ is going in a certain way, or you can know, well, He is not going that way. You may assay, but you know that He is not going. If you go, you are going without Him; you know it inside. Or, on the other hand, you can know that is the way He is going, and as you turn your face in that direction, you know that He is with you in that.

Paul said he went up to Jerusalem by revelation of Jesus Christ. What did he mean? He meant Jesus Christ was going to Jerusalem at that time, in him. The call in him, was that way. The draw in him was that way. There were times when he assayed to go in certain directions, and Jesus was not going then that way, and he said: "The Spirit of Jesus suffered us not." You see? That is what I mean. Strange and difficult as it may sound, but it is true spiritual "politics". These are the very realities of a life with God. And this is the basis of that which gets to God's end. Go off if you like, and do a thousand things by your own initiative, but if it is not like this - strange and difficult as the language is - by revelation of Jesus Christ, by seeing, discerning and sensing in your own heart that that is the way of the Lord, it will all come to nothing. Let it be like this, things will happen, it will be vital; there will be consequences. And this is, after all, what He meant by "abiding in Me, so shall ye bring forth much fruit". "Abide in Me... as the branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine, neither can ye, except ye abide in Me. For, separated from Me ye can do nothing." Go on, try as much as you like - no, nothing, nothing, is the verdict. Oh yes, do all these things, but "Nothing" will be the verdict, if it is not the movement of Christ. We have to know in the Spirit; know the Lord, for that.

Now, young Christians, don't be distressed and appalled by what seems to be so complicated and difficult. I have said before, He teaches us very carefully, and slowly, and gently; we learn these things "line upon line" and "precept upon precept", but they are very real. And you cannot look at this great Servant of the Lord, look at His life, without seeing that this, this was the basis of His life; he was seeing in his heart that God would or would not do this at that time. He was seeing it. Spiritual vision is a real thing, though so difficult to explain, "I see that the Lord is not in that; I see that the Lord is not after that, I see that the Lord does not want that, I see that the Lord is after this." Well, that is simple language, for that is what it means - the eye open within, the vision of Jesus Christ in the spirit. Now, that was a law of His life; all His service was governed by this law of spiritual seeing. We would all rise and say: His life had no waste in it, His service never, at any point, miscarried. Oh, how eternally and universally effective and fruitful was His servanthood! It had its laws, its principles, its nature, and these were two of them: this mighty compulsion of God in His being; and this spiritual discerning, seeing, perceiving the way the Father was going, what the Father was doing.

And if you do feel more confused than otherwise, if you do not know what it all means, what it is all about, believe me, it is very true, and you can ask the Lord to teach you. Because, if you belong to Him, you belong to Him with a great vocation in view, and unto the fulfilment of that, you have to learn, and learn, and learn, right from the beginning, like a child. We have to learn the alphabet all over again, for we do not know this language of heaven; learn all this way of heaven, as right from the beginning. And it is good to be like that, I am sometimes glad that I did not learn what little I have "in the schools", I never got it from someone else. I am very glad of that often, because there is an originality about "learning of the Lord"; it puts you on your own feet, and what you know, you know for yourself.

I do not know if any of you read that delightful little book by Isobel Kuhn, "By Searching". If you have not, read it; it will not take you long to read it. But I might illustrate what I mean at the end. I had never thought of this before - but here it is, the story of one who came into no small knowledge of the Lord, a rich knowledge of the Lord; and whose life represented some very real values for the Lord and became a real servant of Jesus Christ.

She went as a girl to college with her parents' faith, the Christianity of her parents. When she got there, her professor was completely modern, and was almost assuming and taking it for granted that all were of his own mind in the class: that Genesis was just full of fables, not true to fact, and so on. He was talking like this, and said: "Of course you all now do not believe in the story of Creation and so on, as we have it in the Bible. But perhaps somebody here does believe that still; perhaps I had better not assume that; anybody here who still holds onto those old-fashioned ideas, when every sensible person has given them up?" And she rather fearfully put up her hand, and said: "I do." And there was one other in the class - a large class (I don't remember how many), put up her hand, feebly - two in the whole class. The Professor just scorned them, made fun of them, "That is your tradition, I suppose!" It sent her back. She went back with this big question: "Is this my faith, or is it second-hand? Is it something I have got from my parents? Is this my parent's faith?" She forgot it all, and went right back into the world. Young people, don't follow! She said: "I am going to have a faith of my own, or I am not going to have any at all." Well, she put the whole thing to the test, and in the end, she came to a personal salvation and knowledge of the Lord. But I mentioned it this way, you see, it just will not do to be a Christian on a basis like that; it just won't do to go out, as she was intending to do, to the Mission Field, on that ground. You have got to come to the place where you know, you know, and no one else knows better than you do! That is a kind of conceit that may be justifiable for the time being. You know!

One of our young men of years ago was here, and for a long time I had been striking one note. I had been constantly striking the note of "Christ in you, the hope of glory", repeating this, trying to drive it home. He was here all the time. Well, that phase passed, as these things do. One day that young man got up and gave a word, and he said: "I have made a discovery; I have discovered that Christ is in me." And you could see he had made the discovery - he was radiant! And do you know, he went all round telling everybody, "Christ in you, the hope of glory"! And I said to him: "Yes, but I have been saying that for I don't know how long!" He said: "So you have, so you have; yes, I know now, you have been saying this for a long time! It never meant anything to me." And he talked about it, you know, as though I did not know anything about it at all and no one else knew anything about it! He was the only one in this vast universe who knew the meaning of "Christ in you". Well, that is alright. We will forgive you that; we will forgive you any kind of conceit of that kind. But, you see the point: it must be like that. You must have seen the Lord; you must know the Lord. Christ knew the Father. He knew His Father; He knew His God, and out of that His service came.

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.